31 October 2007

Loongson: GNU/Linux's Longshot

One of the under-appreciated strengths of GNU/Linux is its wide platform support. So what? you might sniff: the only platform that matters is Intel's. Well, yes - at the moment. But that could change courtesy of those nice people in the Middle Kingdom.

For Loongson - which readers will remember, is a Chinese chip company that has built a microprocessor surprisingly similar to one produced by MIPS - is hoping that Chinese government support will make its architecture rather important:

Once Loongson chips can meet basic demand, China plans buy them for its army, government offices, and public education. In addition, some local governments have been purchasing computers for China's rural areas to demonstrate the achievement of the "new country construction." It's estimated that China's rural areas will utilize at least 6 million computers in 2007 and 2008, giving Loongson a big boost in this arena.

Why is this good news for GNU/Linux? Because Loongson chips cannot run Windows - there is no MIPS port for XP or Vista. But there is already one for GNU/Linux, which is, amazingly enough, precisely the OS that those 6 million future machines (if they materialise) will be running. Hen hao.

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